Journalist | Writer | Analyst
21 June 2010
India wary of NSG double blow
New Delhi: Two years after being made to jump through a hoop to win an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s export ban, India is bracing itself for a double blow. At its plenary meeting in New Zealand beginning on Monday, the 46-nation cartel may turn a blind eye to China’s plan to supply new reactors to Pakistan, handing Islamabad a free pass. The NSG is also likely to adopt fresh restrictions on the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) equipment and technology, thereby diluting New Delhi’s hard won ‘clean’ waiver.
The NSG members undertake to supply nuclear material and equipment only to countries which let the IAEA monitor all their nuclear facilities. Apart from reasons of safety, the only exception to this rule is if the supply is pursuant to pre-existing commitments.
China joined the NSG in May 2004. In a formal “declaration of existing projects” made at the time, it told the group of its 1991 cooperation agreement with Pakistan under which it had supplied a 300 MWe reactor at Chashma and had just undertaken to supply an additional 325 MWe reactor there. It did not, at the time, speak of ‘grandfathering’ any additional reactors under the 1991 agreement.
In recent months, however, the China National Nuclear Corporation has confirmed plans for building two new reactors at Chashma, a move that runs counter to those assurances. The supply would also violate commitments made to the IAEA in 2004 that “China will, once admitted into NSG, act in accordance with [its] guidelines.”
While conceding their “interest and concern” in the matter, Indian officials say it is for NSG members to object to China’s proposal and specify the conditions Islamabad must satisfy before being eligible for nuclear commerce. The Chinese side was asked about the proposed transfer during the visit to Beijing of President Pratibha Patil, but official sources denied India had told China not to go ahead with the deal.
On ENR, Hungary, currently chair of the NSG, told India in March that consensus on the new rules was still proving elusive. In the light of the September 2008 waiver, Indian officials had suggested exempting India from the applicability of draft rules banning ENR sales to non-NPT countries. But this proposal has found few takers. And now there are signs the U.S. and others are is pushing for the adoption of the ENR ban during the upcoming New Zealand plenary. The new rules will “very probably be approved,” an NSG diplomatic source told The Hindu on Sunday.
India lobbying hard with nuclear partners on ENR issue
After the shock of L’Aquilla, where the G-8 in 2009 agreed to implement a ban on the sale of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) equipment and technology to countries like India which do not accept comprehensive international safeguards on their nuclear programme, the Manmohan Singh government has been actively lobbying to protect its position on getting access to sensitive nuclear technologies with individual supplier nations.
In its recent interactions with the Nuclear Suppliers Group ‘troika’, India suggested that an asterisk be added to the cartel’s draft new rules on ENR transfers exempting the country from the proposed requirement of membership in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It also raised the issue with Russia, France and the United States, countries with which it has signed nuclear cooperation agreements in the wake of the ‘clean’ exemption granted to India by the NSG in September 2008.
NSG rules prohibit the sale of nuclear equipment or material to non-NPT signatories. In 2008, the 46-nation group voted unanimously to relax that condition for India in exchange for a range of non-proliferation commitments. But draft rules framed in November 2008 will unilaterally remove ENR sales from the purview of that exemption.
For the past two years, consensus eluded the NSG on the ENR issue because some members states — notably Argentina, Brazil and South Africa — objected to other elements of the new restrictions. These three countries do not support the U.S.-inspired proposal that adherence to the Additional Protocol — a more intrusive form of international monitoring not mandated by the NPT — be a precondition for ENR imports.
But NSG diplomats say the U.S. has had some success in building a consensus over the past few months and that major elements of the ENR ban, including the requirement of NPT membership, could well be adopted during the cartel’s plenary in Christ Church this week.
Among India’s nuclear partners, only France has given a commitment to provide India ENR equipment. Though the bilateral agreement does not provide for such transfers, Indian officials say President Nicholas Sarkozy gave a verbal assurance to this effect to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Paris last year.
[In the print edition of The Hindu, this story was split into two. The url of the second story can be found here.]